Early Reading and Phonics


At Marlcliffe we believe that reading development needs to be central to our curriculum and the teaching of phonics forms the foundation of this. Phonics and reading are heavily intertwined, especially in the early stages of learning to read, and phonics is a vital tool in the understanding of text.

Our teaching and learning is based on a phonics and early reading scheme called ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’, which is used by over 5000 primary schools in the UK.

Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised is the fastest growing Department for Education-validated phonics programme, built around the latest research into how children read most effectively. It is designed to ensure that learning stays in a child’s long-term memory and helps them to apply their learning to become a highly competent reader. The scheme supports all children to enjoy success in reading and has highly targeted interventions if anyone needs a little extra help. Plus there are lots of joyful characters for the children to meet along the way!

At Marlcliffe, we start teaching phonics in week two of Reception and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school. We also model phonics in shared reading and writing across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.

We believe teaching every child to read is so important therefore we have an Early Reading Lead who drives the programme in our school. This person is highly skilled at teaching phonics and reading, and they monitor and support throughout school, so everyone teaches with fidelity to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. This ensures direct teaching in frequent, short bursts; consistency of approach; secure, systematic progression in phonics learning; effective pace of learning; repeated practice; application of phonics using matched decodable books and early identification of children at risk of falling behind.

Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach reading, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised language (mantras), routines and resources to teach in order to lower children’s cognitive load, as well as the content grids to ensure the correct new learning each day, week and term for the duration of the programme. The Early Reading Lead and SLT regularly monitor and observe teaching and use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning.




We teach phonics daily in Reception and Key Stage One. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers. Each child’s progress is assessed every six weeks.

Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.

Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.

Any child who needs additional practice has daily ‘Keep Up’ support, taught by a fully trained adult. ‘Keep Up’ lessons match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures and resources, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the ‘Keep Up’ resources – at pace. The children are assessed every three weeks.

Children in Year 2 who have passed the Phonics Screening Check continue to build their phonics knowledge through the use of the Little Wandle Grow the Code sound families. They complete the alphabetic code and learn the underpinning concepts of spelling. Once this learning is secure, children are ready to move on to the familiar structure of Little Wandle phonics lessons, supporting children to make links to their phonics learning. They learn to consider etymology, morphology and grammar when spelling new words. The programme provides full coverage of National Curriculum spelling requirements.

Any child who does not pass the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 continues to have daily phonics lessons in Year 2, using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. These children will also receive additional ‘Keep Up’ support, either individually or in groups

If any child in Year 3 and beyond has gaps in their phonic knowledge when reading or writing, we plan interventions using the ‘Rapid Catch Up’ programme to address specific reading/writing gaps. Again, We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the ‘Catch Up’ resources – at pace. The children are assessed every four weeks.

Reading Practice

In Reception and Key Stage One, we teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. In Reception these sessions start in week four. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books.

The sessions are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children, using books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids. Each child’s reading progress is monitored by the class teacher. Every reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:

  • decoding
  • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
  • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text

In Year 2, we continue to teach reading in this way to any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books. The other children take part in comprehensions sessions focusing on retrieval. vocabulary, inference, prediction and sequencing.

Both the decodable and comprehension reading practice book is taken home on a Friday to ensure success is shared with the family. Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents to share and read to children. Families can discuss the pictures, enjoy the story, predict what might happen next, use different voices for the characters, or explore the facts in a non-fiction book.

We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy and for that reason, we read to children every day. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children at Marlcliffe Primary School and our local community, as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures.

Every classroom has an inviting book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books, regularly refresh the stock and talk about them. Books are labelled and sorted by genre. We hold a weekly ‘Book Club’ to entice the children to read a wide range of books and make recommendations. Children in Reception and Key Stage One have a home reading record. The parent/carer records comments to share with the adults in school and the adults read these weekly to ensure communication between home and school.

There is lots of advice for parents and carers on the Little Wandle website:


There are also some useful videos about how phonics is taught in school and to help parents/carers feel confident about supporting their reading at home.



Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.

Assessment for learning is used daily within class to identify children needing ‘Keep Up’ support, weekly in the ‘Review’ lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.

Summative assessment is used every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the ‘Keep Up’ support that they need. SLT and the Early Reading Lead scrutinise through the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.

Children in Year 1 sit the statutory Phonics Screening Check in June. Any child who does not pass, re-sits it in Year 2.

At Marlcliffe, we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, they read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. They are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary and we encourage our children to see themselves as readers, both for pleasure and purpose.

As always, we appreciate all the support that families give to their child, and to school. We hope that we can work together to ensure that all children are having a thorough early reading experience, which will set them up for life.

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Marcliffe Primary School
Marlcliffe Primary School
Marlcliffe Road
S6 4AJ
Main Contact:Steph Hanson, School Manager